NEW YORK (Reuters) – A few dozen travelers got off a train from Miami at New York City’s Penn Station on Thursday and were greeted by a team of public health workers and mayoral office staff who handed them informational fliers about the state’s new COVID-19 quarantine rules.
The team, comprised of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s public engagement unit and the city’s COVID-19 Test & Trace Corps, were running a “checkpoint” starting at Penn Station on Thursday to ensure that visitors from any of the 35 states on New York’s travel advisory were aware of the 14-day quarantine mandate.
Their measure aims to keep the infection rate low in the city, formerly the epicenter of the nation’s epidemic in the spring with thousands of new cases per day.
Matthew Joseph, 46, getting off the train from Miami, said he had not been aware of the quarantine order when he boarded.
“I’m not as much of a believer on a lot of this stuff, but I follow whatever’s necessary to accommodate everyone else,” he said.
Checkpoint staff handed out fliers informing disembarking passengers of the quarantine and instructing them to fill out an online form to enable contact tracers to reach them during their stay.
But it was unclear if the screening at Penn Station, along with other checks of cars at tunnel and bridge crossings into the city, would enhance the government’s ability to enforce quarantine orders intended to stop the virus from spreading through interstate travel.
A spokeswoman for City Hall said refusing to fill out the quarantine form could subject travelers from designated states to a $2000 fine, and violations of the quarantine orders could result in a $10,000 fine.
‘WEBSITE WAS GREAT’
The staff also told travelers about home delivery services for food and medication that the mayor’s office was providing for quarantining visitors.
Joseph said he did not think he would use those resources, since he only planned to be in New York City “a very short time” to look at a property in Manhattan where he wants to open a bar.
Some travelers welcomed the screening.
Amy Clobertson, arriving from Washington D.C. for a medical appointment on Thursday and wearing latex gloves and a mask, immediately filled out her traveler form at the station – even though travelers from Washington D.C. are no longer required to quarantine.
“The website was great. It was really informative. I wish every state was doing this because we have to stop the virus,” Clobertson said.
Chris Keeley, Chief Operating Officer of the city’s Test and Trace Corps, told Reuters he was pleased with reactions to the screening on its first day of implementation.
“People are interested to hear about the responsibilities. People are interested to hear about the resources that are available to them,” he said.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Nick Zieminski)